IOWA CITY, Iowa – Several key members of the Iowa football team met with the media on Thursday and pretty much delivered the same predictable message.
“It’s time for us to stand up and get back to the Iowa way and how they used to (compete) for Big Ten championships,” said junior cornerback Desmond King. “So we’re just trying to get back in the run and compete with others because we know we have the talent and we know we have the players on the team who are going to compete.”
That’s what you would expect an Iowa football player to say right now because it is time for them to stand up and get back to competing for Big Ten championships. Anything less at this stage would be just asking for trouble.
Iowa football to some has become a punch line, made so by a prolonged stretch of mediocrity that includes a 19-19 record over the past three seasons.
Whether you think Kirk Ferentz’s job should be in jeopardy is an ongoing debate that will continue unless King and his cohorts win at least nine or 10 games this season.
I don’t see Ferentz coaching beyond the 2015 season if Iowa fails to win at least eight games this season, or maybe even nine games. I believe it’s come down to that because Ferentz, who is entering his 17th season as head coach, has used up all his goodwill in terms of wins and losses and because I don’t think Ferentz would want to keep coaching in such a toxic environment.
I’m not necessarily saying that Ferentz would be fired if Iowa won fewer than eight games this fall, but that some kind of agreement would be reached after the season in which ties were severed.
There is so much uncertainty right now because the 2015 season has to play out and because the University of Iowa still has to hire a new president. What’s to stop a new president from coming in and cleaning house in the athletic department? It’s not just Ferentz’s job that would be under review with a new president.
As for the Iowa players, they carry a massive weight on their shoulders because many on the outside believe that Ferentz is on his last leg and will be coaching to save his job this season.
Every player I spoke to on Thursday said almost the exact same thing about the criticism and about Ferentz being on the hot seat.
“I don’t feel any hot seat or pressure about anything with our coaching staff,” King said.
The players either are oblivious to what is happening with their head coach or they’ve been programmed to block it out in public situations like Thursday’s press gathering. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle because I find it hard to believe that the players, especially veteran players like those who were interviewed Thursday, aren’t aware of Ferentz’s situation.
I understand that there is only so much an Iowa football player will say in public. It just seems strange that none of the players would even acknowledge on Thursday that the program and the head coach are being questioned.
“We block that out,” said senior running back Jordan Canzeri. “We block out all the noise. And we just focus on each other, all of us being on the same page and just working real hard.”
Your parents, your friends and other relatives, none of them ever bring up the negativity and uncertainty that’s hovering over the program right now?
Maybe it is just business as usual. But I still was surprised that not one player on Thursday said he was motivated or feels any pressure from Ferentz’s situation.
“You realize that’s just the outside world talking and nothing matters in here,” said senior receiver Jacob Hillyer. “We don’t pay any attention to it. The coaches tell us the first day we get here, don’t listen to the outside world. That’s their job to talk about us and to talk negatively most of the time about our team.
“It’s pretty easy not to pay attention to it, especially when you’re focused on school and football. You’re barely home enough to watch TV.”
The problem is that it’s getting easier for fans not to pay attention to Iowa football. The combination of losing and having more entertainment options has made Iowa football a tough sell.
If the players don’t realize that now, they will when they look up into the stands at Kinnick Stadium on game day.
Some things can only be blocked out for so long.